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Winde: Army deployment in gang-ridden areas need support of communities

Premier Alan Winde cautioned that it was only a stop-gap measure and that long-term success rested on fundamentally changing communities.

Alan Winde is sworn in as the Western Cape Premier in the Western Cape legislature on 22 May 2019. Picture: @WesternCapeGov/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Premier Alan Winde believed the mass deployment of police officers, supported by the defence force, would buy authorities some time to really tackle the underlying issues driving gangsterism and violent crime in the Western Cape.

On Thursday night, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced a special operation involving the South African Police Service and soldiers who would take place in Cape Town suburbs on Friday.

It involved national units like the special task force. Operations have been held in Philippi and Hanover Park on Friday morning, however, the army's presence had not been significant.

Winde cautioned that it was only a stop-gap measure and that long-term success rested on fundamentally changing communities.

“We’ve got to create an alternative economy because gangsterism in our economy is driven through an illicit economy. So, it’s about getting all the right role players in the room and what the city’s role is and what the role of the province is - not only from an oversight point of view but what more we can do as a province.”

Former Western Cape police commissioner Mzwandile Petros agreed and believed the operation's success would hinge on better coordination between the various tiers of law enforcement.

Petros said intelligence gathering would be crucial and must start from within affected communities.

“Crime happens in communities and I think the involvement of communities is fundamental because, at the end of the day, they are the people that are on the receiving end of the criminals.”

The news was widely welcomed, even though details of the deployment were limited, presumably largely due to security protocol.

In reality, the army's presence has not yet been felt in Friday's operations, with the metro police and the SAPS out in full force.

Eyewitness News witnessed two operations in Phillipi and Hanover Park, where two army caspers, filled with soldiers, were spotted travelling along Govan Mbeki Road.

However, it's unclear where the troops were headed or what role they would play in ongoing operations to root out gangsters.

OPPOSITION

Not everyone has welcomed a decision to deploy the army to help quell gang violence in Cape Town communities.

The FW de Klerk Foundation was among them, questioning whether soldiers could make a difference.

The foundation has questioned whether the deployment of the army to assist police in crimefighting was appropriate and would be effective.

The foundation’s Rebecca Sibanda said: “The soldiers are trained in warfare, whereas the South African Police Service is trained in community policing. When you bring in the military when there’s clear incapacity from police, the nature of policing will change because of the presence of the military.”

The army has been cleared to offer a supporting role to the police for the next three months.

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